For the year 1916, ARG’s cigarette case engraved with the names of all the places he served, records just the one word ‘Korogwe’. This is a small town in Tanzania (then German East Africa) on the railway between Tanga on the coast and Moshi in the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro. Korogwe sits just under the line of the Usambara Hills. Coincidentally, I recall travelling past Korogwe (a few years ago now) on the bus from Dar-es-Salaam up to Arusha on a trip to climb Mt. Meru and I remember looking out the window and thinking it would be great to trek through the hills along this stretch of road.
I think Korogwe would fit with the details of an unnamed letter published in the Hampshire Regimental Journal, which I believe could have been written by ARG to one of his fellow officers back with the Hampshire Regiment on the Western Front or at home.
We know that ARG did not join the KAR until October 1916 and travelled out to East Africa in May 1916 to join the Motor Machine Gun Corps [MGC(M)]. The letter records the unnamed author’s frustration at being stationed away from the front line, with little chance of any ‘scrapping’. However, the letter does record one skirmish. Below I have tried to trace the places and dates in his letter and compare them with other contemporary accounts. I have also tried to find out more about Korogwe and what was happening there between July and November 1916.
B.E.A.E.F., East Africa.
[I assume this is ‘British East Africa Expeditionary Force’]
I got out to this country on the 3rd July, having had a decent voyage round the Cape, calling at Cape Town and Durban. We stayed in Kilindini harbour [i.e. Mombasa] the night, and disembarked the next morning [4th July]. We entrained and got as far as Voi that night, going on to Taveta, where we stopped the night again [5th July]. We then went to Mochi, where I went into a rest camp [6th July], having left my M.M.G. details at Maktan [Maktau, probably a typo of the Regimental Journal]. A week later [13 July?] I left M. and got as far as the railhead on the Tanga line, remained there the night [possibly either Mauri or Korogwe?]. The next afternoon [14 July?] three officers and myself were detailed to go escort a mule convoy of twenty-five wagons up to the firing line, the escort composed of 150 details, all odds and ends, R.G.A., S.A. Cape Corps, etc. I was put in command of the rearguard, which was composed of fifty Cape Corps [see here for a good summary of the Cape Corps and their participation in the campaign]; they are half-castes and have white officers and one quartermaster-sergeant per company. We did a very slow eight miles that night, and formed a lager by a bridge which we had to cross over in the morning. The Pangani is a big river, and so it was an important bridge [Zuganatto Bridge? see below]. The Huns had been sniping the road a good deal. This was about eighty miles behind the firing line [possibly Pangani or Mgambo by mid-July 1916 – see below], but they got cut off. At 5.3 a.m. next morning [15 July?] we were woken up by a M.G. playing on the laager [‘laager’ – an Afrikaans term for an overnight camp fortified by encircling the ox wagons or thorn bushes], also a pom-pom [a small field gun – see ‘pom pom‘]. Well, as we were lying in the open it wasn’t pleasant. I doubled across the bridge with my scally wags, who are as a matter of fact fine scrappers [not technical military terms to my knowledge!], and made my way up the hill where the enemy were. To draw a long story short we blazed away at the bush, the people in the laager doing the same thing, and the Huns cleared off. There were about 15 whites and 150 blacks. If it had happened in France we should have been wiped out, but as the German Askari shoots with black powder (450), and can’t shoot for nuts, it’s damned bad luck if he hits you. The convoy didn’t go on, and the details stopped in the village. I have been sitting down here doing nothing ever since, except odd jobs such as post staff officer; now I am O.C. details. After that show, columns were sent out to strafe the Hun, which they did, capturing his gun [Action at Segera Hill – see below], and the sniping ceased.
I have put in an application for the K.A.R., which I hope to get.
I met Captain Green and Wheeler in the W.A.F.F.S. when they came through here on Minden Day [Minden Day is 1st August, a regimental custom for the Hampshire Regiment. This dates the letter after 1st August 1916. See below for Captains Green and Wheeler of the Gold Coast Regiment, West African Frontier Force (WAFF)]. I don’t expect to see much scrapping here
“At the same time [7 July 1916] the small [enemy] force of about two companies which had retired before Hannyngton from Korogwe along the Pangani, returned and showed signs of aggressiveness. Small raiding parties kept interfering with our telegraph line, and convoys between Korogwe and Handeni, and finally, early on the morning of the 13th July, a determined attack was made on the road bridge at Korogwe, which was, however, successfully beaten back. The time had come to secure my rear and left from this guerilla warfare. Accordingly I ordered the Inspector-General of Communications, General Edwards, to make the following dispositions: To send part of the 5th Indian Infantry from Tanga, along the railway to Muhesa; to send the 57th Rifles from Korogwe along the railway also to Muhesa, with a small detachment on their left in the direction of Amani; from Muhesa the 57th Rifles to proceed to the coast at Pangani, which was to be seized in co-operation with the Navy. In the meantime another detachment under Lt.-Col. C. W. Wilkinson, consisting of Railway Sappers and Miners, Jhind Imperial Service Infantry, and other details, was to proceed from Korogwe down the Pangani River to deal with the enemy force which had attacked the bridge, and which was reported to be at Segera Hill some distance down the right bank of the Pangani. All these movements were duly and successfully executed. At Amani about 25 enemy whites surrendered without opposition. Col. Wilkinson surprised and defeated the enemy at Segera Hill at dawn on the 15th July, and captured from them a Hotchkiss gun in good order, with ammunition, and thereafter pursued the enemy south towards Hale and Kwa Mugwe (Hoffman’s plantation). The 57th, after reaching Muhesa, proceeded to Pangani, which had been previously occupied by the Navy on the 23rd July. In the meantime, as I thought an effort should be made to capture these enemy parties, I had directed General Hannyngton’s brigade to return from Lukigura to Handeni, and from there to march along the old caravan route towards Pangani, so as to intercept the retreating enemy and to clear the country of all raiding parties. He reached Ngambo [Mgambo] about midway between Handeni and Pangani on the 21st July, but found the enemy had already slipped through, part proceeding to the coast at Mkwadja, and the greater part retiring south along a track which proceeds by Rugusi and Manga (about 40 miles south-east of Handeni), in a southerly direction towards Mandera, on the Wami River.” London Gazette 29906 – 16 January 1917 pages 692 and 693
“The Regiment arrived at Kilwa Kisiwani on the 19th November , and disembarking during the afternoon, marched to Mpara, where it encamped. Here on the following day the Battalion was joined by the Depot Company, which had hitherto remained at Korogwe, on the Tanga-Moschi Railway under Major Read” p.44 ‘The Gold Coast Regiment in the East Africa Campaign’ by Sir Hugh Clifford (1920)
Towards end of October 1916 the SA Pioneer Corps repaired the railway from Morogoro to Dar – “These trains consisted of an engine and three or four tractors, each capable of carrying from ten to fifteen tons, and did the journey from Dar-es-Salaam to Morogoro in twelve hours. The effect of this on the supply position can readily be appreciated as, until rail connection was established, all supplies had to come by road from Korogwe via Handeni. This, under the most favourable conditions, occupied three days, but frequently took a week or more, owing to heavy rains and the collapse of the temporary bridges. The maximum lorry load by road was only three tons, and the strain on the cars and drivers, owing to the bad roads, was so great that the service was in grave danger of breaking down altogether.” p.72 ‘The Story of the 1st Battalion Cape Corps, 1915-1919’ by Captain Ivor D. Difford (1920)